Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Joan:Potty Training Fears, Stress and Setbacks

There is so much material on potty training, some of which I have referenced in earlier blogs. However, I thought I would address some very specific areas of interest and of much concern.

Some of the topics I'm going to address today will be referenced from Karen Deerwester's excellent book, "The Potty Training Answer Book," published by Sourcebooks, Inc. These topics include:

- Are potty fears normal?

- How should I, as a caretaker, respond to potty fears?

- What can I do when my child is fearful about flushing the toilet?

Are potty fears normal?

Fears are a normal part of childhood. Fears might be a small insulated moment when your child is face to face with something unfamiliar. A simple explanation, a helpful suggestion, or a hand to hold might be all your child needs to move forward. Sometimes all your child needs is a familiar context: "Hey, this toilet looks different from ours. Look at all the ways that it's the same as the one in our bathroom." Rational support can help in situations where the fears are specific and clear.

Other times fears are deep and developmental. The potty training years coincide with a time of sweeping emotional growth. The deepest fear may not be the toilet at all. It may be the more developmental struggle with separation. Before you can calm your child's fears, you must grow comfortable with your own. Children have to face some fears in order to grow emotionally. It isn't easy to see your child struggle, but it is necessary.

How should I, as a caretaker, respond to potty fears?

Responding to your child's potty fears is as easy as ABC:

Acknowledge: Never dismiss a fear as trivial or nonsense. Your child's fear may not be rational to you as an adult, but it always adhere's to the standard of child-logic. You may not know where it originates. It may contradict good sense, but it is real to your child.

Balance: Balance your response between comfort and power. Your child has an adult partner by his or her side, someone who sincerely reassure him or her that they are safe and capable. It's a fine balance; too much "safe" and you slip into an overprotective mode, robbing your child of their skill building; too much "capable" and you rob your child of the emotional growth that parallels the behavioral growth.

Conquer: Conquer together or alone. Every fear is an opportunity. Solutions will be personal, but there must be some sort of resolution. When possible, let your child decide what to do. Present your child with a few options -- sometimes he or she just needs help knowing what to do next. Then they can conquer the fear "alone." Sometimes, they are willing to act and but need your hand or the physical reassurance that they are not "alone."

What can I do when my child is fearful about flushing the toilet?

If there's a simple solution to a fear-inspiring situation, by all means use it. The fear may have little to do with the particular situation and everything to do with your child's sense of power and control. It is better to teach your child that he or she can handle the situation. He/she is smart, strong and capable. Of course, telling them so doesn't make it so. Potty training is an emotional accomplishment as much as it is a physical accomplishment! Addressing fears as they arise will teach your child potty flexibility and all-important adaptability.

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